Social Action at NVHC

Social Action at NVHC

“For I have singled [Abraham] out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right (tzedakah u’mishpat)” (Genesis 18:19). Losing no time, Abraham boldly initiates a plea (and succeeds!) on behalf of the innocent in Sodom. His intervention dramatically illustrates that a defining feature of the covenantal relationship Jews have with God is the autonomy we have been given to improve our world (tikkun olam) by seeking to alleviate suffering, prevent abuse and exploitation, and elevate humanity.

NVHC Change, NVHC’s Social Action Committee, supports NVHC’s commitment to tzedakah u’mishpat and tikkun olam by enabling and coordinating  our congregation’s participation in social justice, community service, charitable giving, issue advocacy, and learning (collectively “social action”). The committee creates opportunities for the congregation to work on social action by:

  • building relationships among congregants to create a community of people interested in social action,
  • maintaining a comprehensive and updated list of all social action activities at NVHC,
  • identifying congregational social action priorities and resources, and
  • partnering with social action organizations.

Learn more about how we operate by reading our Social Action Committee Charter. Want to get involved? Come to a meeting (open to all, dates listed on our calendar) or ShowClick Here to View Contact Information to get on our email list and learn about upcoming events and updates.

What we do

Our activities have included providing warm meals and hand knitted scarves for guests of the local hypothermia shelter, packing snack bags for local children experiencing food insecurity, drawing attention to issues of poverty and homelessness, and working to provide a cleaner, greener environment. Together with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, we seek to counter discrimination against the LGBTQ community; we are also active participants in VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement), an organization committed to bringing people together across religious, racial, economic and political party affiliations to build a stronger Northern Virginia. In partnership with Cornerstones (formally Reston Interfaith) and other organizations, NVHC members take action in the spirit of tikkun olam to make the world more habitable and compassionate for all people. NVHC Change is always looking for people who want to make a difference.

Check out the list below for a summary of what we do, or contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information for the NVHC Change Activity List. We also have a list of organizations in the area that are looking for volunteers.

CORNERSTONES

Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith) is a non-profit organization that provides support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare and other services in northwestern Fairfax County. More information can be found on their website.

NVHC was a founding member of Reston Interfaith in 1970, and 50 years later, we continue today to support and partner with Cornerstones in its social services mission.  Andy Lacher serves as NVHC’s representative to Cornerstones. In his role as NVHC representative, Andy works with the SAC to strengthen our congregation’s commitment to serving people in need and advocating for social justice.

Ways we help Cornerstones:

  • During the High Holy Days, we hold a food drive and donate food to Cornerstones’ food pantry.
  • Every winter we cook and serve several dinners for the Cornerstones’ Hypothermia Shelter.
  • We cook and serve dinner a couple of times a year for the 100 adults and children at the Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Shelter.
  • We collect coats for the Cornerstones’ winter coat drive.
  • Our religious school students make bedtime snack bags for the children in the shelter and bag lunches for the shelter residents.
  • We also support Cornerstones in other ways each year including donating to the annual backpack drive and donating books to the Cedar Ridge Community Center.

Do you want to help out on your own or with your family? Volunteer Opportunities are available at Cornerstones for individuals of all ages.

Cornerstones also has many volunteer activities for youth. More information: Embry Rucker Shelter Bagged Meal Guidelines 2018 and Embry Rucker Shelter Bedtime Snack Pack Guidelines

VOICE

NVHC is a member institution of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE). VOICE is a multi-faith, non-partisan citizens’ organization which acts on issues that affect the most vulnerable families and communities in Northern Virginia. An important part of our Social Action mission, VOICE aims to close equality gaps and hold public officials and other policy-makers accountable to the populations they serve. Through community organizing, VOICE has helped us to consolidate our power with other faith based organizations and affect real social change in Fairfax County and beyond. More information on VOICE can be found on their website.

NVHC was well represented at the October 21, 2018 action with over 65 congregants joining 1,400 other VOICE members from 55 + institutions throughout Northern Virginia. Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring committed to working with VOICE to reform the Virginia cash bail system, decrease mass incarceration, and prioritize funding for mental health in schools, among other issues.

NVHC congregants also get involved every election year with the non-partisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort. These GOTV efforts are important to increase voter turn out in typically low turn out precincts in Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties.

In addition, NVHC has been at the forefront of VOICE’s efforts to partner with Fairfax County Public Schools to create a school environment that is more inclusive of non-Christian students; our work on this issue was highlighted in the Washington Post.

WEEKEND SNACK BAGS FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN IN NEED

Did you know that hundreds of kids in Fairfax County go home from school on Friday knowing that their next meal will not be until they return to school Monday morning? NVHC Change is helping to fight food insecurity and fill hungry tummies through the Weekend Snack Bag program for Forest Edge Elementary School and Clearview Elementary School. Twice a month, NVHC Change volunteers donate food and pack 225 gallon sized bags with healthy snacks to send home with children in need, right here in Reston. The needs at these elementary schools continue to rise and we need more helpers to coordinate this effort. We have had incredible support from all of you with donating food and packing bags, but we need more people “behind the scenes” helping with gathering food we need to purchase, getting the word out to the congregation, picking up bins from the school and more. We are seeking food donations ALL year long. Please help to support this effort by bringing in as many food donations as you can give. If you have any questions please contact Alison. To find out how you can donate food or help pack bags ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

We will hold food packs on the following Sundays at noon: 10/6, 11/10, 12/8, 1/12, 2/2, 3/1, 3/29, 4/26, 5/17, 6/5, plus monthly on Tuesdays during Tamid.

Please help to support this effort as well by sending your child in each week to Kehillat Limmud and/or midweek Hebrew or Tamid with as many food donations as you can give. Below find a list of what the students donate (the school will let you know which grades are donating each item).

  • boxes of raisins
  • individual fruit cups or individual applesauce cups or packets
  • individual popcorn bags and individual packets of instant oatmeal
  • granola bars and gallon size ziploc bags
  • canned tuna, salmon, or chicken (no food with beef, pork, or gelatin)
  • individual trail mix bags and milk boxes
  • individual self-serve mac n cheese cups and peanut butter or cheese and cracker packs

MENTORING PROGRAM AT LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston and Clearview Elementary School in Herndon both participate in a Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) endorsed mentoring program (Mentor Works) for their students. NVHC members volunteer 30 minutes once a week to mentor a student during the student’s lunch time (at Forest Edge, between 11:00 and 1:30; at Clearview, during breakfast or lunch).

What is expected of you?

  • A weekly commitment to meet with the same student at the elementary school for 30 minutes
  • Attend a training session for mentors at the beginning of the school year
  • Background screening (including fingerprinting) will be performed by FCPS.

FCPS information about mentoring is here.

Enrichment Volunteering: NVHC members volunteer weekly in a before-school enrichment class at Forest Edge Elementary School. Volunteers assist the teacher and work in small groups with kindergartners and first graders.

Classroom Volunteering: We are looking for volunteers to help in the classroom at Clearview Elementary School. Volunteers must make a regular commitment of 45 to 60 minutes but this can be once a month, twice a month or weekly. Volunteers will work with students,  usually helping with reading.

If you have further questions about these programs or would like to mentor a student at FEES, please contact the Social Action Chair ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

HYPOTHERMIA SHELTER...WARM FOOD FOR COLD NIGHTS AND EMBRY RUCKER SHELTER MEALS

For several years, NVHC Change volunteers have supported Cornerstone’s Hypothermia Shelter by shopping for, cooking, and serving meals for the guests of the shelter. During the cold months, NVHC Change provides a warm meal once every two weeks from during the winter. One congregant shared her experience volunteering with the Hypothermia Shelter:

When I first signed up to help provide meals for the hypothermia shelter, I was amazed at how many members of NVHC are quietly involved in this endeavor, and how easy it is to participate. When I came to help cook, I was in awe at how organized it was, and how the recipes and procedures are down to a science. When I finally got a chance to serve the meal at the shelter, I could see how all the effort did make a difference. The recipients were very appreciative of the food and our efforts. The meal included fresh salad and fruit and home-baked bread. It is a blessing to be able to help others because it makes you appreciative of what you often take for granted.”

Our Hypothermia meals run from December through February each year. The dates for this year are: 12/7/2020, 12/14/2020, 1/11/2021, 1/25/2021, 2/8/2021, and 2/22/2021. If you can help by providing materials, preparing or serving the meals, please contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

A couple of times a year, we also prepare and serve meals to 100 residents at Cornerstone’s Embry Rucker Shelter. If you want to help by preparing baked goods (rolls and cookies) in advance, cooking together as a group, or serving the meals, let us know and we will notify you about the next meal we plan. Parent and teen teams are welcome to join us in the food preparing. To serve at the shelter, you must be 18 or older. Please contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

HIGH HOLY DAYS FOOD DRIVE - CORNERSTONES FOOD PANTRY

This NVHC tradition has become a significant part of our High Holiday observance. By donating the food that we do not eat on Yom Kippur, Cornerstones is better able to provide for the less fortunate in our community. Grocery bags are distributed on Rosh Hashanah and congregants return the bags, filled with non-perishable groceries, at Yom Kippur services.

FAITH ALLIANCE FOR CLIMATE SOLUTIONS (FACS)

NVHC recently became a member of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. (FACS), a nonpartisan, nonprofit, interfaith organization (with over 70 local faith organization participants) that focuses on developing local solutions to climate and environmental issues. We used Tikkun Olam Campaign Funds to join FACS, not NVHC operating funds. FACS members suggest issues and programs for the organization to consider, and representatives of member congregations meet annually to adopt policy and program goals for the coming year. Ken Gubin is our representative to FACS; ShowClick Here to View Contact Information if you have any questions or comments, or if you would like to get involved.

This past year, NVHC hosted a non-partisan forum organized by local environmental groups, including FACS, for all local Board of Supervisor Candidates focusing on the candidates’ positions on environmental issues. We also hosted the FACS Sustainability Awards, which honor individuals who’ve made contributions ton environmental issues locally. Students from Madison High School, including a young member of NVHC, were honored for helping persuade the School Board to push for the installation of solar panels on Fairfax public schools.

NVHC GREEN TEAM

Jewish teaching commands us to work toward a sustainable future for every living being by living out the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (justice), derekh eretz (civility and humanity), and chesed (mercy and kindness), among others.

To support NVHC’s commitment to such values and work towards a sustainable future, the NVHC Green Team has the purpose of identifying and implementing specific solutions to reduce NVHC’s carbon footprint, enhance sustainability, and educate congregants of all ages on what they can do to reduce their individual carbon footprint. The Green Team recently had a free energy audit conducted for NVHC’s building, which will inform potential plans to make our building more energy efficient.

Green Team members serve as ambassadors, promoting sustainable initiatives and solutions throughout congregational life. The Green Team does not lead external advocacy efforts, but coordinates initiatives with the Social Action Committee and any of the organizations that NVHC works with (VOICE, Cornerstones, etc.)

We have recently joined the Fairfax County Adopt-A-Highway Program, adopting part of Wiehle Ave. Check the NVHC weekly email to find out when the next highway clean up is!

Read the NVHC Green Team Charter and contact ShowClick Here to View Contact Information if you would like to get involved.

SHABBAT DINNERS

In 2016, the Social Action Committee sponsored the Jubilee Kick Off Event: 50 Shabbat Dinners. Together as a community, over 500 congregants celebrated Shabbat in 50 homes across Northern Virginia. Again in January 2018 and February 2019, NVHC members opened their homes so that we were able to experience Shabbat dinner together, as a community.

In 2020, instead of having dinner at each other’s homes, we hosted Sha-Pot Luck Shabbat, a potluck Shabbat dinner here at NVHC.

INTERFAITH PARTNERSHIPS

Through our interfaith partnerships, the Social Action Committee helps us create and nurture relationships with people of other faiths and with other congregations throughout the region.

  • We greet and welcome our Muslim neighbors when they come to pray at NVHC for their Friday prayers (see side bar on the right for more information on how you can participate). We have also held joint classes on Islam and Judaism in the past.
  • We have an Interfaith Dialogue Group that meets regularly with our neighbor, St. Thomas à Becket Catholic Church. For over a year, members of NVHC and St. Thomas à Becket have been engaging in an ongoing discussion about our respective faiths. Please join us! Everyone is welcome to attend. For more information please contact the Social Action Chair and she will put you in touch with the NVHC organizer.

During Passover 2020, the Social Action Committee encouraged congregants to participate in two activities:

  • An Interfaith Seder between NVHC and St. Thomas à Beckett Catholic Church.  We were not able to share the meal this year, but we still shared Passover with our neighbors through zoom.  Next year we hope to join together in person over a meal.
  • The 2forSeder initiative:  We encouraged the 2forSeder, a seder with at least two people of a different faith who are attending their first seder. 2forSeder is a way to teach others about the beauty of Judaism in a warm, fun, inclusive environment.   Next year we hope to be able to promote this more.

Other Ongoing Programs

  • Represented NVHC at the first annual Reston Pride Event in June 2018 and have continued to co-sponsor this annual event.
  • Sponsored and helped serve a dinner at the Cedar Ridge Community Center.
  • Helped our Religious School students with social action projects including writing non-partisan postcards to Get Out The Vote during the November elections, packing snack bags for Cornerstones, and making fleece blankets for Project Linus.
  • Made and distributed reusable shopping bags to promote a county-wide plastic-free challenge, co-sponsored by FACS.
  • Knitted squares for blankets for Warm Up America. This is an ongoing project; if you want to help, contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.
  • Donated clothes to and volunteered at the “store” for Women Giving Back.

We continue to explore social issues of interest to the community and connect social action with Jewish practices and beliefs.

Tikkun Olam Campaign

Learn more about our annual campaign to fund all of our awesome social action projects.

How we are helping those struggling during COVID-19

Food Drive to Support Our Neighbors:  The Social Action Committee has launched a food drive to help our neighbors in the Forest Edge Elementary School communities (Cedar Ridge and Crescent).  More information can be found here.

Mask Making Project: We have sewn and donated over 100 masks to Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Shelter and have also offered masks to the NVHC community.  Interested in helping? Please contact the Social Action Committee Chair.

Donations:  In the name of NVHC, we have made donations from the Tikkun Olam Fund to:

Other Projects:  We are currently discussing other ways to support our community, using the funds we have raised from the NVHC community.  Your ideas are welcome.  Please contact the Social Action Chair.

ADAMS Center Greeters

Note:  This program is suspended while the building is closed.

Welcome members of the ADAMS Center when they come to pray at NVHC on Friday afternoons. No experience needed!

Tasks: Stand at the doorway and welcome the worshipers as they enter the temple.

Two prayer services are between 12:30 to 2:30 pm.

  • First prayer service: Arrive around 12:20, service starts at 1 p.mMembers exit at 1:15 pm and you can wish them well again.
  • Second prayer service: Members arrive 1:30 or so. Stay if you are able to greet those coming to later services.

We would love to have at least 2 on each Friday but more are welcome. You may also come for just part of the time.

Apply for a Microgant

Apply for a microgrant of $25 to $250 for your social action project. These grants are funded by the money raised during our recent Tikkun Olam Campaign.